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Renewed scholarly interest shines light on Judeo-Persian texts

Torat Adonai, Constantinople: Eliezer ben Gershom Soncino, 1546. Beginning of Genesis with 2 woodcuts of the Hebrew letter 'bet' (BL Or. 70.c.10)

Dating back to the Early Middle Ages, the British Library collection stores some hidden treasures.

The British Library is well known for being one of the greatest repositories of both Hebrew manuscripts and printed books in the West. However, what is not so commonly known is that the Library is also home to around 60 volumes containing around one hundred different texts from the Judeo-Persian tradition, some of them dating all the way back to the Early Middle Ages.

Judeo-Persian studies have been neglected for a long time, for several different reasons. Improper cataloging of collections, inadequate knowledge of not only Persian languages but also of the Persian literary tradition (including that of Persian Jews, with the Babylonian Talmud, the “Bavli,” being its cornerstone) and limited access to certain sources, all explain why this field has remained underdeveloped for a long time. But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, as a renewed scholarly interest in the area is thriving in several seminars, universities, and institutes around the globe.

Torat Adonai, Constantinople: Eliezer ben Gershom Soncino, 1546. Beginning of Genesis with 2 woodcuts of the Hebrew letter 'bet' (BL Or. 70.c.10)

The British Library’s collection of Judeo-Persian manuscripts comprises a variety of texts, including biblical translations (known as “tafsir” in Middle Persian), liturgical texts, Persian epic stories and poetry, and even some sections from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, his magnum opus on Jewish religious law.

If you want to know some more details on the collection, click here to visit the Asian and African Studies Blog on the British Library website.

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